Saturday, April 28, 2007

I'm in love with Bill Evans!

This is the type of music that will make you fly in the middle of the night. Puts you in a dreamlike state and helps you revolve around the world and see it from outer space. I always go back to "Waltz For Debby" when I feel weary. It's all worthwhile again. Check out the hipness of these songs.

"Waltz for Debby"

"My Foolish Heart"

"How My Heart Sings"

"Someday My Prince Will Come"



Friday, April 27, 2007

Should've changed that stupid lock!

What ingenious lyrics from the disco anthem, "I Will Survive." So many little things in life add up to quite a significant amount.

Went to see Harlem Yu's concert at the Coliseum. Kinda hard to believe this is his first concert at the Coliseum after 20 years in the music business. His voice always catches my attention, and he's a terrific live performer. Great vocal skills yet charismatic entertainer. I have never seen a crowd so appreciative of an artist at the Coliseum before (given HK people's cold reception of musicians), but this crowd demanded 2 encores (the second one was unexpected, even by Harlem himself, for his ran out of songs), and I've seen quite a lot of shows...that's saying a lot about Harlem's ability to woo the audience. I must say this was one of the best shows I've seen lately, on par with Chucho Valdes' thunderous performance at the Cultural Center.

Seeing live shows is indeed an often emotional experience for me. Witnessing certain artists take the stage, own the stage, and living their dreams is more than a spectator sport; you're located in the zone of excitment. Simultaneously, it's a learning experience for me. I always like seeing how artists own the stage. The most exciting performer I've seen is Dr. Lonnie Smith. The way he builds up his solos is amazing, and he goes through certain stages:

1) First stage: warm-up (taking it slow and bit by bit, feeling how the song should proceed, and feeling how the audience wants it [because if the audience isn't receptive, then it's a waste of time altogether])

2) Second stage: build-up (he pushes his emotions a little forward, takes his audience into a deeper emotional level, connects spiritually and intellectually with them, and also shows off his chops a little bit)

3) Third stage: pushing the limit (now his audience is totally comfortable with where he's taking them, then he pushes their limits of acceptance and also challenges them ["basically how far can you go"], and he is at a groovy mode.

4) Fourth stage: explosion (this is the most exciting stage - this is why people buy tickets to see him. This is where he lets all his emotions out. This is not about chops anymore. It's the feeling, the soul, the gut, all flying out. You groove with him b/c you agree with him. Albeit the explosion, Dr. keeps his composure throughout the process.)

5) Fifth stage: cool-down (this is where the emotions and fire die down and he takes you back to normalcy. But it's less abrupt than it is gradual. You just let him cool you down. And after that, you feel good.)

So these days, I have a lot of Dr. Smith's soul in me (and I say that in the humblest way), including my recent show at Grappa's Cellar. I must say in terms of playing the chops and owning the stage, that WAS by far my best performance in HK. I just let it all out this time. And the audience could clearly connect with me. I could see it. I could feel it. It's the best feeling in the world.

Check out Ram's weblog for more details about the night.

It's sad to know my PCLL year in going to end soon. I must say this has been a delightful, joyful (though extremely difficult) year for me. I must say I'm blessed to have such a good group of friends in the program. I haven't met one person I don't like (Ok, maybe one). But overall, this support unit is priceless. I can't get it from anywhere else. I really enjoy the small talks at cafes and fast food places in between classes or after the SGs. Sometimes we talk gibberish, other times we talk about careers, but in any case, the talks have been quite interesting. I'm going to miss this wonderful year when I enter the real world again (for the second time). I treasure all this time from here to finish. Most of all, let's pray that we'll all pass the exam.

I hope I use the five point method by Dr. Smith in other areas of my life. I aim to finish everything in an art form, be it going to the market to buy fish or writing a groundbreaking thesis on neurons. Life is about showing some style.

Well I hope you like mine.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

I was a featured guest on RTHK Radio 3 today!

What a surreal day!

I was featured LIVE on RTHK Radio 3 on the "Morning Brew" show with Phil Whelan. Please check out the clip from the archive. Second segment, start time 7:38, end time 24:57. So enjoy!

The interview was part of the promotion of the Grappa's gig tomorrow. I talked about my struggle as a blues artist in the USA, the rise of the Clarence Turner band, pianist Bill Heid, harpist William Tang, and my idiosyncratic view of the live music business in HK. Phil was a terrific guy, and I'd like to thank Rhys Adams for setting me with the interview.

Then I went for a job interview, a visit at the dentist's office (cf. Long John Blues), the pre-study of my Sunday Bible class. I'm home now!

So come see me at Grappas tomorrow if you love me.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

The story of success!

The applause was heartfelt from every single one of the audience. It lasted long. When that happens, you know that you have won their hearts. It may take long, but the effect is long-lasting. He waited 13 years. But as James Taylor aptly points, "The thing about time is that time isn't really real. It's only your point-of-view." It's better to be remembered as someone who truly deserves something than someone who has it easy. His award is more than the total of Tony Leung's 5 awards. Must say congratulations, 劉青雲! You have Hong Kong by your side.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Legitimate soul

All this time, I've been trying to find the correct definition of this abstract term. I found it. Dr. Conlin puts it best:

"Legitimate soul = the ability to both understand and appreciate *all* of those different nuances that go into the core meaning of the blues... and most importantly to not treat them like an act, a gimmick, or a feigned identity, but just to instead be able to understand them as real life and give all due respect."

This definition should go straight into the Webster Dictionary and be recorded in the Library of Congress. All my life I've been trying to do it, musically or otherwise. To live a meaningful life is the life-long search for legitimate soul. Some people find it in music, others find it in working in investment banks(?!). I find it in trying to live my life in a way that would indirectly affect others when they see the way I enjoy myself by making them feel good. And they can tell it's genuine and not make-believe. Accordingly, the chi/energy follows.

That's why Jeff's definition merited an entire entry of its own. Lou Donaldson once said, the blues is the conflict between men and women. B.B. King says the blues is only a style of music, and it's not necessarily gloomy. Buddy Guy speaks of the blues like this: "A lot of people tell me, Blues, they make you cry. I say, then you better not come see me, because I will make you the happiest person you ever seen!"

I'll never understand it all. But you don't have to. Who expects to walk into a Wayne Shorter concert and *get* everything? And if they tell you they do get it, you can be damned sure they're lying.



Thursday, April 12, 2007

Music Garden: MEM「理.想.點」音樂會

Music Garden wrote this in their blog about my song:

"今晚Eternity Girls獻唱了一首新的詩歌《愛的經典》,是一首旋律很優美,把神的創造並神的愛描寫得很美的詩歌,令聽的人感到很舒服,相信這是她們即將在19/4流行樂壇上出版的唱片裡其中一首歌曲。希望這張唱片能獲得更多喜愛聽流行歌曲,但未認識主的救恩的人的喜愛,讓上帝的榮耀更在人間顯現出來。"

Thanks for these encouraging words. I promise I'll write more songs in the meantime.

愛的經典.mp3 by Eternity Girls

Link: Music Garden: MEM「理.想.點」音樂會

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The outlaw has returned to where he came from...

The outlaw of the blues, i.e. Jesse James Brown, passed away, according to reliable source. Jesse has a special place in my heart, for he was the FIRST ONE who let me sit in with him and subsequently hired me to play in his band. His courage was tremendous for trusting a then inexperienced Asian harmonica player. But he liked what he heard. Jesse's courage, charisma, and warmth were only a few things to admire. His legacy will continue and time will be its best witness.

I have nothing to add to Jeff's comprehensive account in his blog. I share everything Jeff says about Jesse and my experience of first meeting Jesse was roughly the same, except it was through Jesse's drummer Lee Hailey. Lee had told Jesse I played the harmonica and Jesse immediately trusted in me, "show me what you've got." Our friendship started. And I started from sitting in with to band to becoming a regular member at Cafe Toulouse Tuesday and Friday nights.

I remember the first time Jesse decided to hire me, it was during a time where people were saying bad things about me. I remember Jesse told me, "Son, there's been a lot of harmonica players who want to join my band, but you're who I'm hiring because you don't play over my singing." That's how I landed my first gig. And every time, Jesse would introduce me as "Brother Henry" to the crowd and called me "one of the finest harmonica players [he's] ever heard."

It was also through Jesse that I met Clarence. One thing led to another. I became busy with Clarence's band, but I stayed in touch with Jesse over the years. I even took a trip down to MLK avenue in the ghetto to try to catch him at the Player's Lounge. To my disappointment, the female bouncer at the door told me she had never heard of Jesse James, and as such, I ended my "soul-searching" in SE, DC.

I still remember my last two encounters with Jesse. One time in 2005, I called him to hook him up with a wedding gig. One night in 2006, after Clarence and I finished playing at Bohemian Caverns, we ran into Jesse outside. We found out his had just finished a gig at Club 2001 upstairs. What a coincidence! Sean Graves told me there was a guy proclaiming to be Bo Diddley's bass player in the good old days, I immediately knew it was Jesse. I could not forget his signature deep voice. That was the last time I saw Jesse, and he was warm as ever.

So to borrow this fabulous track from Jeff, this song is unmistakenly Jesse James. And we can't stop loving him.

And speaking of coincidence, last night was Kafkaesque. A delayed bag of chips at 7-11 caused a life's defining moment. It all comes back and reminds me of my purpose for the past 13 years. Everything happens for a reason. This incident included. Caine Road. 1:30 a.m. of April 12, 2007. It all makes sense now!

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